Tuesday, February 07, 2006

What Would They Do To ToonTown?

This story caught my eye the other day:

Five small Baptist churches were burned to the ground or otherwise damaged in a string of fires that investigators said were apparently set one after another by arsonists making their way down the highway.

The fires broke out late Thursday or early Friday in Bibb County, about 25 miles south of Birmingham. Chief Deputy Sheriff Kenneth Weems said the blazes were set "as fast as they could drive from one location to the next."

There were no immediate arrests and no injuries were reported. Authorities were uncertain of a motive or how many arsonists took part.

The FBI joined the investigation by state and local authorities.

I remember when something like this happened back in 1996. The Extreme Media tried to put over the falsehood that those church burnings were race-related, but I wondered - in a rhetorical sense - why nobody was speculating that maybe the arsons were motivated by anti-Christian hatred. After all, there's nothing that is more blatantly symbolic of Christianity than a church, and therefore burning a church to the ground is awfully symbolic of a Christophobic bias.

As I recall, the white/black ratio of the '96 church burnings was roughly 50/50. However, the ones last week (and the ones since) have been approximately 80% white (in terms of the predominant racial composition of the congregations). So race cannot possibly be a factor, unless it's anti-white prejudice, and gee, there wouldn't be any story in that. Plus, once again the possibility of these arsons being Christophobic in nature should be, but is not, being addressed.

This time, though, I have two other questions: How would the EM be covering this story if the churches were mosques, and what if the arsonist(s) turn out to be Muslim?

~ ~ ~

That's not to say that there is a connection between the church burnings and what has been dubbed the "Cartoon Intifada." But I dare say that Christians would have more of a reason to riot and rampage and destroy over the former than Muslims do over the latter. If Christians rioted, rampaged, and destroyed, that is.

Here is the, um, genesis of this uproar, courtesy of Jack Kelly:

The Cartoon War began innocently enough. Kare Bluitgen, a Danish writer of childrens' books, complained he couldn't find anyone to illustrate the book he was writing about the Prophet Mohammed. The Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten invited cartoonists to offer their own interpretations. A dozen accepted. Jyllands Posten published their work last September 30th.

Extreme Muslim sects, such as the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia, regard any depiction of Mohammed as blasphemy. (The Koran prohibits only "idolatry," and throughout the last millenium Muslim artists have painted likenesses of the Prophet.) Radical Muslims in Denmark issued death threats, and the cartoonists went into hiding. On October 20th, ambassadors from 11 Muslim countries asked for a meeting with Danish Prime Minister Andres Rasmussen to complain about the caricatures. Mr. Rasmussen said he was sorry the cartoons had given offense, but refused to meet with the ambassadors because "as prime minister I have no tool whatsoever to take actions against the media, and I don't want that kind of tool."

There matters rested until last month, when four Muslim clerics from Denmark, led by Abu Laban, who has terrorist connections, toured the Middle East. They had with them the 12 original cartoons, plus three truly vile ones (one depicts Mohammed with a pig's snout; another shows him as a pedophile) apparently of their own concoction.

On January 29th, gunmen in Gaza took over the offices of the European Union. In response, some newspapers in Norway, Germany and France published the cartoons to show solidarity with their Danish colleagues. This led to massive protests in the Middle East and among Muslims in Europe.

The editor of Jyllands Posten has apologized for publishing the cartoons, and the leader of the largest Muslim association in Denmark has accepted the apology. But it may be too late to put the genie back into the bottle, because radical Muslims seek to fan the flames.
So let's recap: A Danish author writes a book on the prophet Mohammed. He wants to include an artist's conception of Mohammed, which by definition would have to be an illustration since the latter lived twelve centuries before the invention of the camera. Islamic fundamentalists in Denmark call any such drawing "blasphemous" even if it is tasteful and respectful and threaten to murder the participating artists. Instead of the Islamic fundamentalists being arrested, the artists go into hiding. Eleven Muslim countries back the Islamic fundamentalists and demand that the Danish government ban the "caricatures." Astonishingly, Prime Minister Rasmussen refuses. Unable to bulldoze the Danes through diplomatic channels, the radical Danish clerics dishonestly rouse the legendary "Arab street" with the actual drawings and several ludicrous fabrications. Terrorists seize the EU's Gaza border cottage. Other European publications, even more astonishingly, retaliate by republishing the Mohammed pics. The entire Muslim world erupts in rage and violence. The Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus and Beirut are attacked and destroyed - acts of war by Syria, in case you were wondering, or under the misapprehension that there is spontaneous anything under the Assad dictatorship.

All of this from a dozen Mohammedan cartoons and ubiquitous Islamic cultural imperialism. Offend them and they will kill you. And there's an awful lot about Western civilization that offends Muslims.

The only rational response to such bullying is to tell the bullies to go do something anatomically impossible - "diplomatically," of course. But as you probably already figured out, while Euro journalists were hanging tough, EUnuch pols were slicing their nuts off:

Europe's political elite were scrambling last night to contain the furor across the Arab world at the publication of caricatures of Muhammad, with leaders stressing that freedom of the press did not mean freedom to cause offence.

With newspaper editors in half a dozen countries unrepentant at the decision to republish cartoons depicting the prophet, EU commissioners stepped in to berate the press and try to calm Muslim anger.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the prime minister of Denmark, where the cartoons were first published last autumn, said in an interview with al-Arabiya television that there had been no intention to offend. "We deeply respect all religions, including Islam, and it is important for me to tell you that the Danish people have no intention to offend Muslims," he said.

The EU also entered the fray. Peter Mandelson, the trade commissioner, said that newspapers had been deliberately provocative in republishing the drawings. Franco Frattini, the EU justice commissioner, said that the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten had been "imprudent" to publish the 12 cartoons on September 30. Publication was wrong, he said, "even if the satire used was aimed at a distorted interpretation of religion, such as that used by terrorists to recruit young people, sometimes to the point of sending them into action as suicide bombers".

Even Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, was drawn into the debate, saying that freedom of the press should not be an excuse for insulting religions.

How very-very and too-too. How politically correct. How excruciatingly multicultural. Also humiliating, cringing, and boot-licking. And futile - Islamists will never be assuaged by empty appeasement, because this kerfuffle isn't about the cartoons. They're nothing but another pretext for waging war against the infidels. If it wasn't Danish depictions of Mohammed, it'd be something else. Western nations can bend over backwards to placate Muslim sensibilities, completely dhimmize themselves, and it won't "calm Muslim anger," because anger is the mother's milk of jihad, and jihad is to Islam what the Great Commission is to Christianity.

It goes without saying that our own lib press is as loathe to republish the "caricatures" in question as they are to print pictures of the 9/11 attacks, positive economic news, or the good news from Iraq, and on the same grounds - "freedom of the press should not be an excuse for insulting religions." This is the same press, of course, that regularly insults, ridicules, and lampoons Christian evangelicals, including with unfavorable comparisons to the same Muslim fundamentalists that they piously insist we must respect. Ditto Condi Rice's State Department, appallingly, motivated by the following pipedream:

By inserting itself into a dispute that has become a lightning rod for anti-European sentiment across the Muslim world, the United States could help its own battered image among Muslims.

"Battered image"? Our image among ordinary Afghans and Iraqis isn't "battered"; elsewhere in the Muslim world it is one of respect or fear, coupled with the usual envy, also part of the Koranic gospel. Frankly it is far more imporant that we be respected and/or feared by Muslims than that we be popular, which, if it were possible, would have been accomplished long ago after the countless billions in foreign aid, strongarming of Israel to gut their country to accomodate Palestinians who want to destroy them, and two pro-Muslim interventions in the Balkans in the '90s. If all that largesse didn't change their minds, useless self-defeating admonishments never will, and their contempt for us will only rekindle.

John O'Sullivan expressed the matter ingeniously:

As riots spread through the Islamic world, the British foreign secretary, the U.S. State Department, the U.N. secretary general, various responsible Muslim organizations and many commentators in Europe and America are calling for "restraint on both sides."

What both sides would those be? Well, one side has published a handful of cartoons, arguably blasphemous and certainly insulting to the Prophet Mohammed, and the other side has burned embassies, taken hostages, murdered three people suspected of being Christians and/or Danes, shot at Danish soldiers helping children in Iraq, marched through London with banners threatening further bomb attacks on the city, and attacked and beaten people whom they suspected of some vague connection with, well, with Europe or Christianity.

Suppose both sides listen to these calls for restraint. What would happen? I suppose that one side would stop burning embassies and murdering people and the other side would no longer publish cartoons to which the murderers might object. That would mean the murderers had obtained their objective and the Danish newspaper that first published the cartoons had been defeated in its campaign against the unofficial Islamist censorship that in recent years has spread across Europe by murder and intimidation. [emphasis added]

Muslim fundamentalists employ murder and mayhem for one overarching reason: they work. Violence makes Western politicians lose their nerve and retreat and become willing to do anything to buy some peace and quiet. When Western politicians stop retreating in the face of terrorism, terrorism will cease to be a Muslim tactic. To borrow an old Nixon quip, "We all need to be George Bushes now".

The stupendous irony of the "Cartoon War" is twofold. One is that the drawing considered to be the most offensive, showing Mohammed's head as the old "cartoon bomb" with a fuse coming out the top - an allusion to the Islamic propensity for violence - is vindicated by the very actions of the Muslims outraged by it:

Uproars over criticism of radical Islam almost always follow the same ironic trajectory. First, someone makes an observation about the violent character of Mohammed or Islam. Then what follows? Violent protests and rioting, which serve to illustrate and confirm vividly the criticism that occasioned them.

Only radical Muslims would consider rioting a rational rebuttal to descriptions of Islam as violent. What other religious group riots or issues death threats after it is criticized? It is precisely because Christianity is so tame that Western liberals often feel safe to lampoon its history as violent. They wouldn't dare level similarly harsh criticism of Islam.

One of the unstated reasons for hesitating before calling radical Islam violent — the reason the fog of political correctness thickens around it — is that it does contain elements of violence. Western society falls silent lest its criticism of Islam result in an explosion of anger validating the criticism.
The other irony - a truly impressive bit of hypocrisy - is that newspapers and magazines in the Muslim world regularly print cartoons that viciously slander and libel Jews and Christians on a steady, heady basis:

One knee-slapper that ran Qatar's Al-Watan newspaper nine months after the 9/11 attacks shows former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon watching as an Israeli plane crashes into the World Trade Center. The Arabic words alongside the Twin Towers are "The Peace."

Then there's the cartoon that appeared in the Jordanian newspaper Ad-Dustur in October 2003, which depicted the railroad tracks to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The punchline? Israeli flags have replaced the swastikas flying above the death camp - with a caption that reads: "Gaza Strip or the Israeli Annihilation Camp.”

And for those who can't appreciate the humor in that tableau, there's always the cartoon that ran in Saudi Arabia's Arab News in April 2002, which shows Prime Minister Sharon wielding a swastika-shaped axe to chop up Palestinian children.

This from the same people who deny the Holocaust as they're threatening a new one. And all with the explicit blessing of their state-controlled media, a configuration they are trying to force onto the West after a handful of private publications had the audacity to make "religious criticism" a two-way street. Cap'n Ed and Mark Levin have more examples of Muslim media "sensitivity."

It is that hypocrisy that puts me (now that the Super Bowl is over) on the opposite side of the fence from Hugh Hewitt on the propriety of the "cartoons" themselves. Not just the "pot...kettle...black" factor (the Danish drawings are Hallmark cards in comparison) but in the fact that their appropriateness or lack thereof isn't the point:

The key issue at stake in the battle over the 12 Danish cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammad is this: Will the West stand up for its customs and mores, including freedom of peech, or will Muslims impose their way of life on the West? Ultimately, there is no compromise: Westerners will either retain their civilization, including the right to insult and blaspheme, or not.

More specifically, will Westerners accede to a double standard by which Muslims are free to insult Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism, while Muhammad, Islam, and Muslims enjoy immunity from insults? Muslims routinely publish cartoons far more offensive than the Danish ones. Are they entitled to dish it out while being insulated from similar indignities?...

The deeper issue here, however, is not Muslim hypocrisy but Islamic supremacism. The Danish editor who published the cartoons, Flemming Rose, explained that if Muslims insist "that I, as a non-Muslim, should submit to their taboos...they're asking for my submission."

Lee Harris echoes Daniel Pipes, but with a great deal more pessimism:

[T]o have a clash of civilizations, it is not enough simply to have one civilization that is prepared to fight tooth and nail to defend its own ethos; there must, in addition, be another civilization that is also prepared to defend, with the same depth of conviction, its own ethical principles. The evidence, unfortunately, is that the West is not even remotely interested in mounting a defense of its values in the face of Muslim fanaticism. Worse, there are signs that the West is even prepared to sacrifice some of its core values in order to appease those who have always despised these values — values such as the freedom of individual expression and the right of every man to hold views that others find offensive and even downright blasphemous.
There used to be a saying: "I may disagree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." We've seen the drastic decline in respect for the principle on the part of the Western Left over the past generation. It isn't much of a stretch to picture that censorship reflex stimulating their appeasement fetish to produce a self-prostration that will inexorably put our culture's head on the proverbial - and literal - chopping block.

And that is the point. The content of the drawings doesn't matter to the substance of this dispute any more than it does to the Islamists' rioting excuses. What does matter is that whether or not they were advisable to produce, they're out there, and the right to put them out there has to take precedence of Muslim thin-skinnedness. Otherwise, as Mark Steyn observes, we....

will wake up and discover that, in practice, there's very little difference between living under Exquisitely Refined Multicultural Sensitivity and Sharia.

And that's no way to fight a War On Terror.

Sure would produce a lot more immolated churches, though.

UPDATE 2/8: You can't think of everything, especially in a post this long and at past 2 AM. So I missed touching back on the aforelinked Jack Kelly's insidious hypothesis about the Cartoon Kerfuffle:

Syria is a dictatorship. A mob could not have burned the building where the Danish and Norwegian embassies were located without the tacit permission, if not the encouragement, of the regime.

Syria also retains considerable influence in Beirut, where the rioting was not spontaneous. Syria would love to distract attention from the UN probe into the assassination of Lebanese politician Rafik Hariri, in which Syria is implicated.

Iran has been, after Saudi Arabia, the nation most active in promoting the boycott. The International Atomic Energy Agency has referred Iran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions against its nuclear weapons program. The nation that will chair the Security Council when the IAEA recommendation is taken up, British Web logger David Conway noted, is Denmark.

"Suddenly the pieces fall into shape," he said. "The rumpus suddenly escalated, complete with fabricated offensive cartoons, to so inflame Muslim opinion that Denmark could be intimidated...into voting in favor of Iran."

We'll soon find out. But you have to admit, so far that strategy, if strategy it is, is working like a well-oiled machine.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Double-M notes CNN's justification for chickening out on publishing the Mohammed illustrations:

[T]he network believes its role is to cover the events surrounding the publication of the cartoons while not unnecessarily adding fuel to the controversy itself.

Brother Hinderaker observes, "Well, sure. That would explain why CNN didn't show the Abu Ghraib photos."

That's an upper-deck shot right there, folks.

STILL ANOTHER UPDATE: From the "credit where credit is due department," these words from Iraqi Shiite Grand Ayatollah Sistani:

Grand Ayatollah Sistani, leader of Iraq's Shiites, "denounce[d] and condemn[ed]" the cartoons, but also blasted "misguided and oppressive" Muslims who have "exploited" the issue "to spread their poison and revive their old hatreds with new methods and mechanisms."
Pity there aren't more Muslim leaders like Ayatollah Sistani. Then perhaps "cartoons" like the ones published in Denmark (not the fabrications showing Mohammed with a pig snout and as a gigolo) wouldn't be so credible.